Introducing Ashley Whitlatch, a trailblazing figure in the nursing community. Ashley holds a Bachelor’s and Master’s of Science in Registered Nursing, specializing in Family Practice, and a Doctor of Nurse Practice. In addition to her nursing degrees, she earned a Master’s in Business Administration. With more than a decade of experience in nursing, Ashley understands the importance of active engagement within the nursing community.

Ashley has embraced the role of a leader and advocate throughout her career. Being active in her community has provided the stepping stones for her career. Ashley has been honored with The 40 Under 40 Award from the Illinois Nurses Foundation and the 40 Leaders Under 40 in Peoria, Illinois, from Peoria Magazine. Additionally, Ashley’s impact on the nursing community earned her one of the first DEI Scholarships, highlighting her dedication to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Ashley’s expertise extends beyond her extensive educational background. She has made significant contributions to her communities through her published children’s book, I Am Everything: Book of Affirmations for Children. This heartwarming 20-page story is designed to instill confidence in young children, making a positive impact on their lives.

40 Under 40—A Significant Milestone

Winning the 2021 40 Under 40 Emerging Nurse Leaders Award from the Illinois Nurses Foundation marked a significant milestone in Ashley’s career. She described it as a “prestigious honor” that not only recognized her contributions to the nursing field but also helped her forge connections and open doors within the nursing community. After receiving this recognition, active ANA-Illinois Board Director Susana Gonzalez reached out and encouraged Ashley to become part of the ANA-Illinos community.

Reflecting on the opportunities that have come her way, Ashley shared, “It opens doors for you when you have that 40 Under 40. I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and ask for me to be a part of a networking event or a collaboration, and they say, hey, you’re 40 Under 40. It’d be perfect.”

In addition to receiving the 2021 40 Under 40 Award from the Illinois Nurses Foundation, Ashley was also honored with the 40 Leaders Under 40 Award by Peoria Magazine in October 2022.

Making a Difference at the State Level

Ashley found a love for getting involved in the politics of healthcare when attending Student Nurse Political Action Day in 2012 as a Senior in College. Years later, she had the unique opportunity to experience the inner workings of politics and make a difference in healthcare when she attended the 2023 Nurses Day at the Illinois Capitol.

Accompanied by Dr. Reed, VP of ANA-Illinois, and Dr. Hardy, ANA-Illinois Board Director, she was able to explore the grounds and even ran into representative La Shawn Ford, who gave them a tour. During the tour, they were shown a room where bills were passed, and the bill being demonstrated was HB 2385, which aims to lower the age at which colonoscopies are required.

While discussing the bill, Dr. Reed pointed to Ashley and suggested that she could help with the bill and proposed that she testify. Inspired by Dr. Reed’s confidence in her, Ashley took on the challenge. During her testimony, she spoke as an expert and eloquently explained the importance of colon screenings. Today, she looks back at the experience in a positive light. “I’m so glad that they pushed me to step out of my comfort zone.”

Through her connections with ANA-Illinois, Ashley was able to help make an impact in healthcare at the state level. Vice-President of ANA-Illinois Dr. Reed’s encouragement and confidence in her pushed Ashley to take a step out of her comfort zone and be a part of making lasting change. Today, that bill has passed through the floor and is waiting to be approved.

ANA-Illinois—A Great Place to Start

“I love healthcare. I love nursing. I love everything about it. It’s me.” said Ashley Whitlatch.

Being a part of ANA-Illinois is an important part of Ashley’s life. Beyond her career, ANA-Illinois brings something more to the table for her—a support system offering peer and professional support, advocacy, education, practice resources, legislative updates, and networking opportunities.

“When you’re a part of ANA-Illinois, you are a part of something that’s so much bigger. You get all these educational opportunities, these networking opportunities. You meet wonderful, wonderful people. The work that ANA-Illinois is doing is just major. It’s important, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

ANA-Illinois has proven to be an invaluable platform for nurses like Ashley Whitlatch to thrive and make a significant impact in their careers. Without her connections to ANA-Illinois, Ashley would not have had the opportunity to testify at the state level and help bring about change in healthcare policy. Beyond the professional development opportunities and networking advantages it offers, ANA-Illinois provides a sense of belonging and support that is crucial in the healthcare field. By being a part of this dynamic nursing community, individuals like Ashley can access a wealth of educational resources, connect with like-minded professionals, and contribute to meaningful initiatives that shape healthcare policy.

For anyone looking to embark on a fulfilling nursing career in Illinois, ANA-Illinois proves to be an excellent starting point, offering countless opportunities for personal and professional development.

Career Through Community

Career opportunities through community involvement are at the center of Ashley’s heart. Whether its involvement in ANA-Illinois, or her hometown of Peoria, Illinois, she is always asking the question:

“What are more ways that I can get involved?”

But she’s not just sitting back and waiting for those opportunities to appear. Ashley is constantly reaching out to her community and organizations to be an active member and help out in any way. As a result, Ashley sits on the planning committee of 40 Under 40 for the Illinois Nurses Foundation, as well as the board for her hometown.

Ashley is also on the ANA-Illinois DEI committee, where she is helping promote diversity and inclusion in the nursing industry.
“I’m all about helping out and giving back—I want to be a part of the future classes to come.”

In 2020, Ashley achieved another milestone by publishing her first book. I Am Everything: Book of Affirmations for Children. The 20-page short story tells the tale of her two young children on the journey to self-confidence. Following the publication, Ashley received invitations to read her book to numerous schools in District 150 as part of Read Across America Week. Her engaging storytelling captivated young minds and inspired them to embrace their unique qualities and abilities.

Currently, Ashley holds the position of Chair on the American Heart Association Executive Leadership Team in Peoria, as well as serving as a board member for the Peoria Board of Health. Her roles in these influential organizations demonstrate her commitment to making a lasting impact in healthcare leadership.

Building her career through her community, both ANA-Illinois and her hometown, Peoria, is something that Ashley strongly promotes for anyone. By getting out and getting involved in organizations, Ashley has made connections that have provided amazing opportunities to advance her career as a nurse.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Ashley’s enthusiasm for promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in nursing is evident in her dedication to implementing DEI practices, especially those introduced by ANA-Illinois.

For Ashley, DEI is a major and crucial aspect of nursing. It is critical in the healthcare industry because it leads to improved patient outcomes, addresses healthcare disparities, enhances innovation and problem-solving, builds trust and patient engagement, and promotes workforce satisfaction and retention.

Her passion for DEI initiatives drives her to explore innovative ways to incorporate these practices within the nursing field, particularly through the initiatives promoted by ANA-Illinois.

Her commitment to this cause was recognized during the admissions process when she was awarded one of the first DEI scholarships from ANA-Illinois. With this scholarship funding, Ashley is excited to embark on research focused on DEI initiatives through eCornell.

Ashley’s Final Word

Ashley Whitlatch’s journey as a trailblazer in nursing and advocacy is truly inspiring. Her involvement with ANA-Illinois has provided opportunities to make a lasting impact on healthcare and has played a significant role in propelling Ashley’s career forward.

ANA-Illinois is an organization dedicated to fostering career development, providing educational resources, and creating community opportunities for nurses. Ashley Whitlatch’s membership in ANA-Illinois serves as a shining example of how the organization’s commitment to nurses can be incredibly beneficial.

For anyone wanting to get involved or wondering where to start, Ashley has this to say:

“ANA-Illinois is an awesome place to start. I feel like it is my home. Everybody here is wonderful, and I feel fortunate just to be able to be involved. There are a lot of opportunities that come about just by being involved with ANA-Illinois. So for me, it has been wonderful. I would tell anybody this is the perfect place to start.”